The purpose of life.

“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”  I found never found a better summary of what I believe to be true about life.  All of the growing experiences I have had in my life, whether they led to subtle realizations about myself or truly shaped major parts who I am as a person today, can be applied applied back to this quote.  As cheesy and perhaps nerdy as it is, I got the quote from the movie version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which I think is one of the most underrated movies out there.  For the record: I found a few sources on a quick Google search that attributed the quote to James Thurber, the author of the original short story, so I’ll work with that moving forward.  The best way I can think of to talk about this is to break it down piece by piece and explain how each part applies to my life, so here goes nothing.

To see the world…

I have been lucky enough in my life to have started visiting (even living) in foreign countries since I was five years old.  I lived in China for three months, Chile for five months, visited Argentina, Peru, the UK, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Easter Island, and been all over the States.  I cannot even begin to explain how humbled I am by all of this, and how lucky I consider myself, even to the point where I doubt I deserve any of it.  But why am I saying this in the first place?  Without exposure to the outside world, you cannot possibly know who you truly are.  The people that you meet, the things that you see, even the languages that you learn are all formative and help you think in different ways.  The more miles you cover, the more your mind can expand.  Immersing oneself in other cultures and seeing how the rest of the world lives is definitely a valuable experience.  I feel as though there is so much I have learned from traveling and what I have said here doesn’t quite do it justice, but I have also learned from blogging that sometimes words aren’t sufficient, no matter how useful they are.

…things dangerous to come to…

Take risks.  This is, admittedly, an area in which I need to improve upon myself.  I fear for how I would handle myself in situations that are too new, from trying new social circles to moving to a new city.  But these risks are necessary to making the most of life and finding who you are.  Going to Chile, having led wilderness trips, even volunteering for a small leadership position at College Possible in the past few months have all led to me becoming who I am today and realizing so many things about myself: that I shouldn’t take everything so seriously, go with the flow, jump in head first to some situations, don’t give up on yourself, and – probably my favorite – everything has a way of working out, even if it’s not in the way you’d expect.  Taking risks can be really difficult, and it still is for me, but I have found so much growth in them, especially the risks that end up in making huge mistakes.

…to see behind walls…

Step back.  Analyze the situation.  What’s really going on here?  If everyone took everything at face value, we would never progress philosophically, socially, or culturally.  Always ask why.  One of the main philosophies in my life is to never stop questioning, which of course has led to nights where I don’t fall asleep for what feels like hours (it’s probably not) after going to bed, thinking about whatever issue my mind wanders to.  Things should never be taken at face value.  There are always underlying psychological, cultural, and social factors that play into the decisions an individual makes, even into the decisions we as a society make.  This is why communication is always so important: assumptions very easily lead to conflict.  Look behind what you see, what your experience tells you, and think about the experiences that the other person (or people) has had.  Otherwise, the rifts that are created will be there for a long time.

…draw closer…

Humans are social creatures.  We’ve built great things, created social structure, and developed unique cultures all across the globe, all of which would not be possible without communication.  I’ll emphasize communication a lot, because what’s the point of having words if we don’t use them?  Forming ties with family, friends, a community, or a culture makes someone a part of something bigger than themselves.  I like to think that all of humanity is connected for the reasons I listed above, and that the best thing we can do in our lives is be part of that connection and become close with others, because being able to live for other people besides yourself is just more rewarding and fun.  I feel so lucky having friends that I can call at any time to talk to about my day, about my problems, or just watch a movie with.  I know it can be for some, but in the vast world of billions of people, there are connections waiting to be made.  One just has to look.

…to find each other…

Finding those individuals with whom you want to connect is important.  Meeting new people, strengthening old friendships, and even boiling it down to finding the one person you can count on and that will always be there are all processes without which life truly gets kind of pointless.  I’ll get a little cheesy romantic on this one, but I firmly believe that there is someone out there (as in love) for everyone.  I haven’t found that person yet, and it has been literally years since having that kind of connection for me, but I still remain optimistic that it can and will happen.  How I expect that to happen, I have no idea.  But true human connections tend to not be predictable and pretty much come out of nowhere, at least in my experience.  Those you rely on and trust the most could be the people you least expect at first.

…and to feel.

Humans have emotions.  You can always argue about evolutionary psychology and biological reasons for emotions, but I like to think that it’s something deeper than that.  Call it naive of me, but I think our minds are too complicated to be fully logical.  Love, anger, fear, sadness, happiness, contentedness, all emotions are acceptable to have.  Sometimes I feel like it’s frowned upon in society to show them, but I think the opposite.  We’re human.  Let’s act like it.  After a stressful week, I’ll admit that I just feel like I need a good cry.  No reason in particular, just to release some emotional tension, even if the stress is completely manageable.  It’s exceedingly rare that I get myself to that point, but it’s still a feeling I get.  I’m okay with being seen as strange at this point, I can do what I want.  But another point I want to make about this is to trust your gut instincts.  I think I can do a better job here as well, but thinking about it, that’s why I ended up in Chile.  That’s why I want to return for a second year at College Possible.  Go with what your heart tells you, where your passion leads you.  Take those risks that allow you to have all of the experiences I mentioned above.  Logic can only take us so far, and only leads to half of the human experience, with the other half being emotion.

So there you have it.  The meaning of life.  Writing to this got to me a little more than I thought it would, and I feel good about it.  It also made me realize that I have more I can improve upon in my life to reflect these ideas more and make the most of my life.  So how can you make the most of yours?

That is the purpose of life.


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